Legacy, tradition, brilliance, beauty, pride, and joy are a few words that come to mind when experiencing a Jack and Jill Debutante Ball. Many people believe this tradition is outdated, unnecessary, and archaic, but in a time of Black Lives Matter movements, HBCUs value revalidation and consistent distress for Black people. Keeping the Black Debutante tradition is essential for celebrating the legacy of Black Excellence in our culture now and for generations to come.
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. boast 252 chapters nationwide, representing more than 40,000 family members. Each chapter plans annual programming activities guided under a general five-point programmatic thrust: cultural awareness, educational development, health (education and advocacy), civic (legislative advocacy and service), and social/recreational areas. Through service projects, Jack and Jill of America created a medium of contact for children to stimulate their growth and development. Through lobbying, educational programming, dissemination of educational materials, and the organization of community and charitable events, Jack and Jill have promoted the public awareness and interests of children, including child development, growth, quality of life, childcare, and the promotion of children’s rights.
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Houston Chapter celebrate 70 years of service, programming, Debutantes, and Stags that make up the foundation of Black Excellence in our hometown. Chartered in 1952, the Houston Chapter was the first chapter established south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the first chapter founded in the South-Central Region. In the spring of 1950, Leona Dorsey and Goldie Hartshorn talked with several mothers about their interest in establishing a local chapter of Jack and Jill. The national organization had no desire to start a chapter in the south-central region, but after some persistent persuasion, they were convinced to allow these zealous mothers to proceed. After two years and many frustrating experiences, the Houston Chapter was founded. On Wednesday, September 24, 1952, National President Dr. Alberta Turner conducted the formal installation ceremony at the Elks’ Club on McGowen Avenue in the Third Ward.
Documenting our history, leaders, and traditions is crucial to preserving our Black Cultural Legacy. Some people may argue that this isn’t the only way to celebrate culture, and they will be correct, but this is an exceptional way to let our children know that their hard work, dedication to their education, respect for cultural history, and leadership development in our community is imperative to their success and it matters.
Jacqueline Whiting Bostic is a living testament to the importance of tradition and legacy in the Houston community. If you are not aware, Mrs. Bostic is the great-granddaughter of John Henry “Jack” Yates, one of the integral leaders who established Freedman’s Town, the first Black settlement in Houston, Texas, after the Civil War ended. She hails from a long line of exceptional leaders. Mrs. Bostic continued that legacy as the first female and African American to serve as an investigator in the Southern Region from 1974 to 1986, the first to serve as a Postmaster in several offices, the first to serve as the President of the American Postal Workers, and the first African American female Legislative Director for Texas. With this litany of noteworthy accomplishments, Mrs. Bostic knows firsthand the importance of preserving our history. She was delighted to share the history of the Houston Chapter of Jack and Jill, interwoven with her family history.
According to Mrs. Bostic, Mrs. Whiting, her grandmother, and a former President of the Houston Chapter of Jack & Jill under her administration, brought forth the idea of a Debutante Ball. The membership approved it, and the first Ball was held under the next administration of Mrs. Demelesta Atkins. “All of the Whiting daughters were Debutantes. They have presented Debutantes for three generations. The second generation had two Debs and two stags. The third generation had three Debs and one stag. Each generation has worked to provide opportunities for young women and young men to become leaders and serve their communities.” Mrs. Bostic shared how important Jack and Jill were to her family’s children growing up and how they looked forward to the activities.
As remembered by Mrs. Bostic, the first Jack and Jill Debutante Ball for the Houston Chapter didn’t happen in Houston because no facility in intercity Houston would allow Black people to have events in hotels or event halls. In 1960, the Jack and Jill Houston Chapter had to secure The Palladium Room at the Houston Yacht Club in La Marque, TX. Ten debutantes were presented at that ball, which Nellie Joyce Punch chaired. That was a mere eight years after Nellie Joyce Punch chaired.
One of Mrs. Bostics most treasured memories of a Jack and Jill Debutante Ball was in 1978 when she was the Debutante Ball Chairwoman. Mrs. Bostic was excited to share, “The theme was Winter Wonderland. Even though being a ball chair is not easy, I loved working with the girls and their parents. I will never forget how beautifully it was decorated. It was gorgeous. Rudin and her husband decorated the ball so well that the Shamrock Hilton Hotel took pictures because they had never seen it so beautifully decorated.”
Mrs. Bostic was excited to say that Jack and Jill helped her family create treasured traditions that were passed down through generations. “Our children were excited to experience the same traditions we treasured too.” She sternly expressed that the Ball should be about the Debutante Girls. “It is about their accomplishments, building young women to work with each other, and highlighting the great things these young people have already accomplished.”
Mrs. Bostic was a joy and pleasure to interview. Jack and Jill Houston Chapter have extraordinarily celebrated Black Family Culture. Mrs. Bostic, the Whiting family, and many other Jack and Jill families have truly served the Black Community in Houston and the United States of America in a way that should make every black person very proud. To learn more about the Jack and Jill of America Inc. Houston chapter, go to https://jackandjillhouston.org/.